Price v. Miller

Decision Date01 November 1967
Docket NumberNo. 207,207
Citation157 S.E.2d 347,271 N.C. 690
PartiesPinky Murrell PRICE, Administratrix of the Estate of Lawyer Murrell, Deceased v. Geraldine MILLER.
CourtNorth Carolina Supreme Court

Beech & Pollock, Kinston, for plaintiff, appellant.

Joseph C. Olschner, Jacksonville, for defendant, appellee.

BRANCH, Justice.

This appeal raises two questions. (1) Did plaintiff offer sufficient evidence of actionable negligence on the part of defendant to carry the case to the jury? (2) If so, does plaintiff's evidence establish contributory negligence as a matter of law?

'In passing on a motion for a judgment of involuntary nonsuit, we are required to take plaintiff's evidence as true, and to consider it in the light most favorable to him, and to give him the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn therefrom. * * * ' Jenkins v. Leftwich Electric Co., 254 N.C. 553, 119 S.E.2d 767.

In the case of Williams v. Henderson, 230 N.C. 707, 55 S.E.2d 462, Barnhill, J. (later C.J.) speaking for the Court, said:

'A motorist operates his vehicle on the public highways where others are apt to be. His rights are relative. Should he lapse into a state of carelessness or forgetfulness his machine may leave death and destruction in its wake. Therefore, the law imposes upon him certain positive duties and exacts of him constant care and attention. He must at all times operate his vehicle with due caution and circumspection, with due regard for the rights and safety of others, and at such speed and in such manner as will not endanger or be likely to endanger the lives or property of others. G.S. § 20--140; * * *'

'He must operate his vehicle at a reasonable rate of speed, keep a lookout for persons on or near the highway, Cox v. Lee, 230 N.C. 155, 52 S.E.2d 355, decrease his speed when any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians, G.S. § 20--141(c), and if circumstances warrant, he must give warning of his approach by sounding his horn. G.S. § 20--174(e); * * *'

A nonsuit on the issue of negligence should not be allowed unless the evidence is free of material conflict, and the only reasonable inference that can be drawn therefrom is that there was no negligence on the part of defendant, or that his negligence was not the proximate cause of the injury. Thomas v. Thurston Motor Lines; Thurston Motor Lines v. Watson, 230 N.C. 122, 52 S.E.2d 377. Here there is material conflict as to whether defendant met another car immediately before the accident, which might have blinded her and prevented her from seeing plaintiff's intestate.

Further, a reasonable inference may be drawn that defendant was not keeping a proper lookout from the fact that she was driving on a level, straight road, in good weather with her headlights on, and never saw plaintiff's intestate until After she hit him.

Moreover, there is evidence that defendant was operating her vehicle at a speed of 60 miles per hour in a 55-mile per hour speed zone. G.S. § 20--141 sets out the various speed restrictions for motor vehicles. The stipulation of counsel brings this case within G.S. § 20--141(b)(4).

'A violation of G.S. § 20--141(b)(4) is negligence per se.' Stegall v. Sledge, 247 N.C. 718, 102 S.E.2d 115.

These circumstances present a case for the jury on the issue of defendant's negligence.

Thus, there remains the decisive question whether plaintiff's evidence establishes contributory negligence on the part of her intestate as a matter of law.

'The burden of showing contributory negligence is on the defendant and a motion for judgment as of nonsuit will not be allowed if the controlling and pertinent facts are in dispute, nor where opposing inferences are permissible from plaintiff's proof. (Citing cases) But the plaintiff may relieve the defendant of the burden of showing contributory negligence when it appears from his own evidence that he was contributorily negligent.' Garmon v. Thomas, 241 N.C. 412, 85 S.E.2d 589.

It is provided by G.S. § 20--174(a) that every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway. This statute was construed in the case of Blake v. Mallard, 262 N.C. 62, 136 S.E.2d 214, where Judge Sharp, speaking for the Court, said:

'The failure of a pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point other than a crosswalk to yield the right of way to a motor vehicle is not contributory negligence Per se; it is only evidence of negligence. (Citing authority) However, the court will nonsuit a plaintiff-pedestrian on the ground of contributory negligence when all the evidence so clearly establishes his failure to yield the right of way as one of the proximate causes of his injuries that no other reasonable conclusion is possible. (Citing cases).

In the case of Garmon v. Thomas, supra, plaintiff's evidence tended to show that he was walking on a dual highway which was being used by two-way traffic. He was refueling flambeaux and setting them along the northern edge of the highway, which was being used for traffic, and that after he had waited on the edge of the pavement for a car traveling east to pass, and after he had looked both ways, he started across the highway and did not see defendant's vehicle until it was within five feet of him. Defendant's evidence showed that he was traveling about 20 miles per hour on the highway and did not see plaintiff until he was within 8 feet of him because he was blinded by the sun. Holding plaintiff to be guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law on his own evidence, the Court stated:

'* * * the plaintiff was at all times under the duty to see the defendant and to yield the right of way to him. In our opinion, both parties were negligent. The defendant was negligent in failing to exercise due care to avoid colliding with the plaintiff on the highway, Lewis v. Watson, 229 N.C. 20, 47 S.E.2d 484, and the plaintiff was negligent in failing to exercise reasonable care for his own safety in that he failed to keep a timely lookout to see what he should have seen and could have seen if he had looked. (Citing cases) The facts compel the view that the defendant's truck...

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35 cases
  • Clott v. Greyhound Lines, Inc.
    • United States
    • North Carolina Supreme Court
    • 14 d3 Abril d3 1971
    ...not think that plaintiff's evidence established the defense of contributory negligence as the sole reasonable conclusion. Price v. Miller, 271 N.C. 690, 157 S.E.2d 347. There is no evidence of any negligence of any kind on the part of plaintiff After defendant assumed possession and control......
  • Culler v. Hamlett
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • 5 d2 Fevereiro d2 2002
    ...will consistently be deemed contributory negligence as a matter of law. Id. at 89-90, 330 S.E.2d at 50. In Price v. Miller, 271 N.C. 690, 696, 157 S.E.2d 347, 351-352 (1967), our Supreme Court held that the plaintiff's intestate was contributorily negligent as a matter of law where the evid......
  • Bradley v. Gay, COA09-1723
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • 3 d2 Agosto d2 2010
    ...75 N.C. App. 86, 89-90, 330 S.E.2d 47, 50 (1985), aff'd, 315 N.C. 383, 337 S.E.2d 851 (1986) (per curiam) (citing Price v. Miller, 271 N.C. 690, 157 S.E.2d 347 (1967); Blake v. Mallard, 262 N.C. 62, 136 S.E.2d 214 (1964)). When coupled with conditions such as a straight road, unobstructed v......
  • Womack v. Stephens
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • 5 d2 Junho d2 2001
    ...to see and avoid defendant's vehicle will consistently be deemed contributory negligence as a matter of law. See Price v. Miller, 271 N.C. 690, 157 S.E.2d 347 (1967); Blake v. Mallard; Hughes v. Gragg, 62 N.C.App. 116, 302 S.E.2d 304 (1983); Thornton v. Cartwright, 30 N.C.App. 674, 228 S.E.......
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